Thursday, 24 September 2009

P.M. Outclassed by a Political Pro

Obama snubbed Brown story 'absurd'

Downing Street and the White House are engaged in a damage limitation exercise amid suggestions of a rift between Gordon Brown and US president Barack Obama.

Obama snubbed Brown story 'absurd'

Both governments have been forced to issue strong denials following reports that five requests from the Prime Minister for a one-on-one meeting during his trip to the United States had been snubbed.

Mr Brown was apparently able to snatch some private "face time" with Mr Obama only in a kitchen during a dinner with other leaders in New York.

The row came as the Prime Minister was braced for more bad news, with rumours sweeping Westminster that business minister Baroness Vadera - one of his closest economic advisers - is set to leave the Government.

The White House released a statement dismissing suggestions that Mr Brown had been snubbed by Mr Obama as "absurd", and describing relations between the two men as "terrific".

"Any stories that suggest trouble in the bilateral relationship between the United States and UK are totally absurd," a spokesman said.

"We would add that President Obama and Prime Minister Brown enjoy a terrific relationship, they speak regularly on a range of the most difficult challenges facing our two nations, and meet frequently."

The spokesman added that the two leaders had already "conferred" during the climate change meeting in New York.

Downing Street accepted that there had been "numerous calls" between officials and the White House, where "potential meetings" had been discussed.

But a spokeswoman added: "We have said all along that the situation with formal bilateral meetings, that they were not pinned down but they would be spending time together in New York and at the G20, where they would be discussing pressing issues."

The Labour Party's traditional lead over the Conservatives in northern England, its electoral stronghold, has collapsed under Prime Minister Gordon Brown, according to research by the Financial Times newspaper.

The FT said on Thursday David Cameron was on course for a clear majority of English seats in the next general election, expected in May 2010.

The business daily's analysis of recent polling data indicates the Tories have a four-point lead in the north of England, wiping out the 19-point Labour lead in the region that helped keep Tony Blair in power in the last election.

Cameron has built a big lead among the wealthy, his party's traditional supporters, and has seen a big swing at the other end of the social spectrum, converting a 12-point deficit to Labour in the 2005 election into a 14-point advantage, the FT said.

On Tuesday, the latest Guardian/ICM poll showed only 26 percent of voters in Britain would vote Labour in the next election, compared to 43 percent for the Conservatives.

(Reporting by Daniel Fineren; editing by Andrew Roche)

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